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House of pain: Hundreds gather at massacre site for ‘period of reflection’

 

The Sydney shopping centre where six people died after a “senseless” attack has become a site for solemn reflection as hundreds gather to mourn those killed inside.

Apr 18, 2024, updated Apr 18, 2024
NSW Premier Chris Minns signs a condolence book whilst visiting a memorial to the victims who lost their lives in Saturday’s knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, in Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024. Five women and one man were killed while 12 others were seriously wounded before a man was shot dead by police during a terrifying rampage at Westfield Bondi Junction on Saturday. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

NSW Premier Chris Minns signs a condolence book whilst visiting a memorial to the victims who lost their lives in Saturday’s knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, in Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024. Five women and one man were killed while 12 others were seriously wounded before a man was shot dead by police during a terrifying rampage at Westfield Bondi Junction on Saturday. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

The doors of Westfield Bondi Junction, in the city’s eastern suburbs, re-opened to the public on Thursday for the first time since a mass stabbing attack during Saturday afternoon trade.

A sombre crowd formed to leave condolences and bouquets on level four of the silent shopping centre, where stores will resume trade on Friday.Mothers held children close and wiped away tears as they left.

Others crossed their chests in prayer as they descended the escalators.

Many wore black.

One police officer wore his badge but no uniform as he walked through the centre, his arms linked with another.

At the top of the escalator where the so-called “bollard man” – French construction worker Damien Guerot – confronted the knife-wielding attacker, people queued for coffee.

Outside Myer, a message from Bondi store manager Samantha Thomas thanked “brave team members, first responders and customers who worked to save lives and keep others safe”.

Behind closed shopfronts, some workers set about returning to normalcy, checking price tags and stock.

A sombre-faced NSW Premier Chris Minns and Police Commissioner Karen Webb walked through the centre before addressing the media.

“It is not back to normal for Sydney, but this is an opportunity to get some kind of grieving and to turn the page on what has been a very difficult period,” Mr Minns said.

The premier praised the community for coming together and described the day of reflection as “the first step in healing”.

“We are a community that can stand together in difficult periods and show that grief is universal when it is felt by one family, one individual,” he said.

Mr Minns has indicated stricter knife laws would be considered following the stabbing and a separate attack at a western Sydney church.

Police Minister Yasmin Catley said the state government would also consider similar laws to those implemented in Queensland to allow officers to use metal detectors without a warrant during searches.

Scentre Group, which owns and operates the shopping centre, said shops would open for business on Friday with an increased police and security presence.

Normal trading hours will be maintained, although some stores will opt to remain shut.

Shopping centre tenants’ rent will be waived for the period it has been closed, with staff offered mental health support and counselling.

Black ribbons were displayed on digital screens at all Westfield locations on Thursday.

Security will be increased at all centres in response to the attack.

One guard, Faraz Tahir, 30, was among those killed, while fellow security guard, Muhammad Taha, remains in hospital.

The pair, both Pakistanis, showed enormous courage and the government would consider extending Mr Taha’s visa to remain in Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

The re-opening for trade will mark almost a week since 40-year-old Joel Cauchi went on his stabbing spree.

The Queensland man, whose family said he lived with mental illness for decades, was shot dead by a police inspector on level five of the complex.

Six people remain in hospitals across Sydney, with one woman in intensive care in a serious but stable condition, according to NSW Health.

A nine-month-old baby, whose mother was among five women killed in the attack, is in hospital in a serious but stable condition.

A permanent memorial is being planned near the site and a beachside candlelight vigil will also be held on Sunday.

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